A Lecture by Sister Helen Prejean
Thursday, October 22, 2015
University Park Campus
Book signing to follow. Books will be available for purchase.
Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP beginning Tuesday, September 29, at 9 a.m.
Following the opening of the exhibition Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls, we will present an evening with death penalty abolitionist, Sister Helen Prejean. When Sister Helen, a Roman Catholic nun, served as a spiritual advisor to a convicted killer, she was forced to examine America’s system of justice. Her deep reckoning with the implications of capital punishment changed her life’s mission. She dedicated herself to educating the public about the death penalty and counseling families whose members have suffered from violence.
Sister Helen’s story has been told in a best-selling memoir and the Oscar-winning film Dead Man Walking, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn and directed by Tim Robbins. Sister Helen will discuss her work in the years since Sarandon’s Oscar-winning performance brought her to international attention.
There are currently more than 3,000 Americans on Death Row, more than 700 of them in California alone. What are the legal, ethical, religious, political, and policy dimensions of America’s continued use of the death penalty? What is justice? What is the value of a human life? Sister Helen will reflect on these questions and more in a powerful talk about why she has devoted her life to the struggle to abolish the death penalty.
About the Speaker:
Sister Helen Prejean has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to state executions. She travels around the world giving talks about her ministry. She considers herself a southern storyteller.
Sister Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students. Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel, she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and began working at Hope House from 1981 to 1984. During this time, she was asked to correspond with death row inmate Patrick Sonnier at Angola. She agreed and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience. The result was Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. It became a movie, an opera and a play for high schools and colleges.
Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths. In doing so, she began to suspect that some of those executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, which was released by Random House in December of 2004.
Windows on Death Row
Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls
Thursday, October 22 to Friday, December 18
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 22, 5:30 p.m.
For more info, click here.
Organized by Diane Winston (Journalism), Patrick Chappatte (research fellow), and Anne-Frédérique Widmann. Co-sponsored by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, the USC Office for Religious Life, the USC Caruso Catholic Center, the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC, the USC Center for Public Diplomacy, the USC School for Cinematic Arts, and Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.
Photo: Scott Langley